To my Republican friends:

(Yes, I have some.)

If you’re a friend of mine, it’s quite unlikely that you voted for Trump. If you did I hope that: his naming a white supremacist to the highest role in his White House, or his naming a climate denier with no science degree to lead the EPA’s transition, or that he didn’t know that he’d have to replace the White House staffers that would leave with Obama, have provoked some deep thinking on your part about whether or not you made the right call.

Most likely though, you didn’t vote for Trump – and if so I applaud you for putting country over party. But you’re still a Republican. Let’s talk about the party you support, regardless of your vote in this election.

Let me say this first: I tell my friends that on Earth-2, I would be a Republican. I am suspicious of the liberal worldview that often boils down to the position that the world should just, somehow, be a better place. I favor lower taxes where possible, lower regulation where possible, and market based solutions where possible. I understand that the game theory of international conflict sometimes requires flexing muscle even if the goal is peace. I actually think Ted Cruz had a point when he said that Detroit was a once-great American city destroyed by liberal policies. I’m not some dyed-in-the-wool liberal. I’m not even registered as a Democrat.

But three things would make it impossible for me to support the GOP today. First is, yes, Trump, regardless of where I put my vote on election day. But even putting Trump aside, the GOPs positions on civil rights issues and on science itself would make the GOP a non-starter for me.

Let’s start with Trump; 90% of Republicans voted for Trump. He enjoyed high profile support from the speakers of both houses of Congress and the RNC. The head of the RNC is slated to be Trump’s Chief of Staff. He may not enjoy the unqualified support of the entire party, but Trump is a Republican officeholder. If you’re a Republican, he’s the leader of your party. You can’t have it both ways.

Even if Trump weren’t your party’s leader, there are still the positions of your party that, for me, are utterly non-negotiable. How the parties behave is a separate question, but not one whose answer should give you any comfort.*

I feel that a blanket assignment of “racism” as the motive of Trump voters is too knee-jerk a reaction. But how about your party’s history with racism? It’s fairly established fact now that the Republican party took over the South with Nixon’s “southern strategy”, and Reagan picked up this baton by using code words like “states rights” – this one in particular he coined at an infamous speech in a town obviously chosen for its symbolic meaning – the site of high profile murders of Civil Rights activists. That upheaval and geographic base is still, today, the bedrock of the Republican party.

Is your party done with racism? No, it’s not. The GOP has engaged in a war on voting rights across the country, and its efforts were so blatant in North Carolina that a federal judge said that it “target[ed] African-Americans with almost surgical precision”. This detail of how that bill came to be leaves no doubt what the intention of these legislators was. The NC GOP’s after-the-fact gloating drives the point home even further.

Elsewhere in the world of civil rights, Republicans opposed the Obergefell decision allowing same-sex marriage. If you’re friends with me, you probably have gay friends, and you’re supporting a party that wanted to to bar them from the same rights and protections that you and I enjoy (assuming you’re not gay yourself, which … I don’t know).

The GOP is anti-science. I’m sorry, but it’s just that simple. Republicans deny the existence of anthropogenic climate change, which is as settled a scientific question as there is. Republicans deny that evolution is a fact, which is ALSO as settled a scientific question as there is. They deliberately conflate the two meanings of the word “theory” – one meaning a hypothesis, one meaning a settled interlocking set of explanations. The “theories” of evolution and climate change are not hypotheses. As far as the science is concerned, they are settled, and the GOP denies this.

Mike Pence, the supposedly normal one on the ticket, is both a creationist and a climate change denier (oh, actually, sorry, “Global warming is a myth” is something he said in 2001, maybe he’s changed his mind…). Hmm, nevermind: in 2009 he said “[in] the mainstream media, there is a denial of the growing skepticism in the scientific community on global warming” and in 2014 he said “haven’t seen a lot of warming lately. I remember back in the ’70s, we were talking about the emerging ice age. We’ll leave the scientific debate to the future.” 2014 was the hottest year on record. That record fell (again), as this year is slated to be the hottest ever.

To add insult to injury, Mike Pence – although he’s never strung the words “conversion therapy” together – did say “Resources should be directed toward those institutions which provide assistance to those seeking to change their sexual behavior” –  which is of course a position that can be only be based on an insulting, baseless, anti-science, lie.

Like I said above, I’m sympathetic to the political philosophy of conservatism. But if civil rights and the scientific method are partisan issues, which they most certainly are, you won’t find me considering supporting the Republican party in any way. They are disqualifying positions for me, and, frankly, they should be for you too.

*I happen to believe the Republican party is vastly worse on this score: partisan gerrymandering by the GOP gave them an extra 10-15 house seats before the 2016 election, and conservatives are disproportionately the source of fake or misleading news. But, I know, emails!!1! and #benghazi and the Clinton Foundation.

Inauguration Day Fundraiser

I sent this email to a group of my friends that live in NYC. If you live in the area and want to help organize, let me know at thomas.vladeck@gmail.com

Friends,

If you’re like me you’re shocked about what happened on election day. I can’t believe our country decided to put that orange-skinned, pussy-grabbing, bankrupt con artist that’s likely an agent of the Russian government into the Oval Office.

But here we are.

As bad as it is now, he’s not in office yet. And as unpredictable as he is, we have no idea what to expect he’ll do when he gets there (see these two back-to-back tweets as he does a real-time A/B test of governing styles), but it likely won’t be good. One of his top lieutenants already proposed bringing back the House Un-American Activities Committee (a black stain on the history of American Civil Liberties), and if he implements his campaign proposals to remove 11 million immigrants, ban muslims, punish women for having abortions, reinstate waterboarding, and change our libel and slander laws – he’ll be violating the first, fourth, fifth, eighth, and 14th amendments.

Not to mention he’s planning to rip up the watershed Paris Accords (makes sense as Climate Change is a Chinese hoax…) in a year that has seen every indicator of Global Warming reach dizzying new heights.

While we’re on the subject of existential threats, it’s becoming clear where the suspiciously pro-Russia policies of the Trump campaign came from, as Russian diplomats had been in contact with the Trump campaign throughout. This at a time that NATO has put three hundred thousand ground troops on high alert because of a feared confrontation with Russia.

I don’t know about you, but I’m probably going to be a wreck on inauguration day (January 20th). Instead of just watching, let’s do something. And that something we should do is party together, raising money for organizations that are going to fight these abhorrences tooth and nail.

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  • We rent out a space
  • We invite all our friends
  • We have a great time
  • Some great groups get some needed cash to keep the fight going

Who’s in?

Tom

 

Re: the election

Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities

I owe many people an apology today. I was extremely confident that HRC had this election in the bag and presumptuously advertised this confidence over the past weeks, dismissing any thought that she would lose. It wasn’t an act, and it has made it all the more devastating to me now that she has in fact lost.

Because of my work with Gradient, which does statistical modeling in a business setting, over this cycle a lot of people have asked me for my interpretation of the various forecasting models. When discussing it with them, I was bullish, overconfident, and as it turns out, terribly wrong. I feel terrible for giving people this false impression of security and making the result any more jarring and devastating than it already is.

What was I wrong about? Well, mostly everything – but two very large things stand out: polling bias and the correlation of polling errors. In general there are two types of statistical error: bias and variance. Variance is when you’re dancing around the right result – any one measurement is off but on average the errors cancel out; bias is when the errors don’t cancel. Polling bias (even state polls) in presidential elections has been estimated over many cycles, and has typically been small (about 1%). What polling bias means in concrete terms is that many more people voted for Trump than the polls captured; there was a social movement happening in front of our eyes but that did not show up in the data. I trusted the data and did not foresee the possibility that the polling bias would be so large across the board in swing states.

That leads to the next point. State results are obviously correlated – blue and red states tend to vote together. This means too that polls of states should be correlated. So outcomes and the measurements of those outcomes should be correlated – but should errors be correlated? I had no reason to think so. For example, polls had HRC ahead in Michigan and Wisconsin; I thought that all the correlation between the two would be captured by the correlated polling results across the two states. I did not think that a polling error in one state meant that a polling error in the same direction in the other state was more likely. It is obvious now that this was the case.

This election is going to prompt a rethink across the entire polling and data analysis industry – myself very much included, even though politics is not my professional remit. But that’s small potatoes compared to the vastly more consequential implications of this election: climate change; respect for women, immigrants, and muslims; the supreme court; our security and trade relationships around the world; the nuclear codes, and so on.

As for what happens next, I hope you agree with me that it’s critical that we stay engaged with our country’s politics as opposed to recoiling in horror. Quite literally, I think our country needs us and people like us to fight tooth and nail to preserve our vision of what America is and what makes it great.